"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to ‘glorify God and enjoy him forever’."
Although Thoreau is most famous for his great literature, especially Walden, his life is most interesting to me. He had been a teacher but could not get regular employment because he refused to administer corporal punishment. Fortunately for him, he was taken under the wing of Ralph Waldo Emerson. He eventually built a house on the shores of Walden Pond and lived very simply. He wasn’t in the wilderness, actually just living on the edge of town, but his observation on nature have inspired thousands. He refused to pay taxes because he disagreed with the Mexican-American war and slavery, and ended up spending a night in jail. If we could all be so inspired, eh?
What I find most interesting about him is that he really didn’t advocate isolating oneself in the wilderness. What he did admire was partially cultivated countryside with places to hike in. After a trip to the pristine, untouched forests of Maine he came back with a new respect for some civilization. That is a feeling I can definitely understand… who among us has not come back from camping to a hot shower and breathed a sigh of relief? And everyone needs someone to talk to eventually.